10 January 2015

Weekend Cooking: Of All the Gin Joints by Mark Bailey

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Of All the Gin Joints by Mark BaileyI first spotted Mark Bailey's Of All the Gin Joints last summer in the Algonquin booth at BEA. The book contains a mix of Hollywood boozy gossip, stories about celebrities and their hangouts, and cocktail recipes.

I'm having a hard time writing about this book because, frankly, I have mixed feelings. On the fun side, I enjoyed reading the inside scoop of many of the people who were big in the film biz from 1895 to 1979. Some of the stories are funny (Humphrey Bogart carrying around a stuffed panda), and some are almost hard to believe (did John Barrymore really drink his wife's perfume when he couldn't find any alcohol in his house?).

On the less fun side, I found it a little sad that some of the actors I've loved watching on the silver screen had major problems with alcohol. Apparently Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were notorious for public drunkenness, and Lee Marvin was once so inebriated he couldn't remember where he lived. Ava Gardner
was a gal who like to get hammered and get hammered fast. her drink of choice was a concoction of her own invention that she called Mommy's Little Mixture. . . . dump every type of liquor you can find into a jug or pitcher or punch bowl and suck it down.
I think my favorite parts of Of All the Gin Joints were the vignettes on the Hollywood clubs, bars, and restaurants where the rich and famous used to hang out. For example, the Magic Castle is a private club in the Hollywood Hills that was originally built as a place for magicians to gather. The castle is known for its nightly magic shows staged for only members and their guests. Johnny Carson, Steve Martin, and Tony Curtis belonged to the club.

The movie-set stories are also entertaining, and I liked learning the actors' favorite drinks. Edward Hemingway's illustrations, especially the caricatures, are little gems.

Recommendations: Of All the Gin Joints is a book that would appeal to film buffs and those interested in Hollywood history. For the rest of us, I suggest checking it out from the library. You'll find some interesting tidbits, but I'm not sure it's worth the bookshelf space. Note that Library Journal gave Mark Bailey's Of All the Gin Joints a starred review, so maybe it's just me.

Port and Brandy
A favorite of Richard Harris
1 drink
  • 1.5 ounces Port
  • 1 ounce brandy
Pour into a snifter or wineglass. Then maybe light a cigar

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781565125933
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Tina 1/10/15, 7:04 AM  

That sounds like a book of interesting antedotes on the famous folk. I see your point on feeling sad that there was so much abuse of alcohol. Maybe it was constantly being in the spotlight that made some stars weaker than others when it came to alcohol, an escape mechanism?

Fortuitous that I choose Hendrinks gin as a link to my book today!

Sarah's Book Shelves 1/10/15, 7:48 AM  

I love all the hollywood tidbits! And - I'd love to hear the history of some of the restaurants and bars. I'm reading West of Sunset right now and Humphrey Bogart just made an appearance...with a drink in hand :)

bermudaonion 1/10/15, 9:09 AM  

My mom would probably enjoy the gossipy parts but, to be honest, this book sounds rather sad to me.

rhapsodyinbooks 1/10/15, 9:50 AM  

I would love hearing the gossip, but I would probably want to verify some of it with other sources!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 1/10/15, 10:41 AM  

I agree that it does sound a bit sad--addiction seems to run wild among actors and artists. I do love hearing about old Hollywood, though.

Katherine P 1/10/15, 11:03 AM  

I agree with the library recommendation. This sounds entertaining but not a book I would get enough of to give shelf space too. Thanks for sharing!

Jackie McGuinness 1/10/15, 11:17 AM  

Adding to my library TBR list! I love reading Hollywood gossip of times gone by.
I recently read the autobiography of Conrad Hilton and learned that one of his sons was Taylor's first husband. They drank a lot also. But I think that was the times, alcohol was not seen as the danger it is now.
Remember they used to have ads with doctors smoking!!

Laurie C 1/10/15, 12:42 PM  

With most vices, what's glamorous in the young is just sad in the old! I remember Richard Burton in Beautiful Ruins was always drunk, but I'm not much of a film history buff, so I wasn't planning to read this book, anyway. That cocktail recipe looks pretty simple to try, though!

Esme 1/10/15, 2:41 PM  

I would agree, I do not want to read about heavy drinkers.

Leah @ Books Speak Volumes 1/10/15, 2:42 PM  

The gossipy anecdotes sound fun, but I can see how reading about stars' problems with alcohol could also be depressing.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 1/11/15, 9:01 AM  

Hmmm, port and brandy and a cigar? I actually might try the first two together!

(Diane) bookchickdi 1/11/15, 12:29 PM  

I saw this one too at BEA, but I didn't think I would like it.

Les 1/11/15, 1:23 PM  

I think I'd be interested in the recipes more than the Hollywood anecdotes. So sad that so many of the rich & famous were/are addicts of some sort.

Cecelia 1/11/15, 1:46 PM  

I hear you on the sad reality of alcoholism. I can readily believe the perfume bit - I was horrified when my grandmother told me that her mother's best friend used to drink rubbing alcohol and vanilla when there wasn't anything in the house. She assured me that it was true. Humans! So strange and broken at times, eh?

I do think I'd be interested in some of the stories, but I'll take your suggestion and look for this one at the local library.

Belle Wong 1/11/15, 9:30 PM  

You're right, that is sad, to see how many of them had problems with alcohol. I guess there must have been some major stresses to being in the limelight back then - probably nowadays too. It sounds like it was a common coping mechanism.

jilllora 1/12/15, 11:34 AM  

Bleh. I've never been a fan of either Hollywood history or drinking tales, so I won't even be borrowing this from my library. :-)

Florinda 1/13/15, 1:03 AM  

The Magic Castle still exists as a private club for magicians, but there are ways non-magicians can get in to see shows. I've worked two blocks away from the place for over a decade, and haven't managed to get inside yet.

Margot 1/13/15, 10:39 PM  

I'm an old movie fan and this appeals to me. Of course, I'd like the gossip too, and maybe the drinks.

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